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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Leeds Parks Fund: An introduction to the project

In 2018 we announced the latest group of projects to be awarded grants from the Rethinking Parks fund. In this round, we were looking for organisations and partnerships who were well placed to replicate and adapt the most promising approaches to help run parks more sustainably, drawing from what they had seen others implement or test elsewhere.

Five months on, Emma Trickett from Leeds City Council is introducing us to the Leeds Parks Fund, the model that inspired them, their partnerships and their objective.

Below is Emma's introduction to the project:

What is the idea?

Leeds Parks Fund is developing a model to support and encourage charitable giving to parks.

In 2017 Leeds City Council launched the Leeds Parks Fund after realising that, despite there being an appetite for donating to parks and greenspaces in Leeds, there was not a body that could accept donations. The Leeds Parks Fund is hosted by the Leeds Community Foundation, who are well known throughout Leeds for supporting thousands of charities and volunteer groups.The Rethinking Parks project will allow the team to investigate the potential of the Fund in raising an additional income for Leeds parks and greenspaces.

The project will:

  • Research what local people and local businesses think about the idea of charitable giving to public parks through forums and surveys designed by the University of Leeds.
  • Develop a marketing and fundraising plan so that the Leeds Parks Fund can generate funds to invest in parks and green spaces.
  • Work with communities to develop and promote the Fund.
  • Trial new ways to take charitable donations for parks e.g. text donations and site installations.
  • Set up a panel independent of the council and the community foundation to manage the funds raised.
  • Use the income generated to make a difference on the ground by funding projects in local parks and greenspaces.
  • Investigate the potential of other UK community foundations to host similar funds.

Who is working on the project?

The Leeds Parks Fund is supported by a strong partnership of Leeds Community Foundation, Leeds City Council, University of Leeds and Leeds Parks and Green Spaces Forum. Each organisation plays an essential role in ensuring the project’s success.

Leeds Parks fund

Produced by Alicia Alli

Background of the Project:

We visited Bournemouth in January 2016 to find out how the Bournemouth Parks Foundation model works and, following that, we were inspired to establish the Leeds Parks Fund, which was officially launched in summer 2017.

The project is based on the parks foundation model with the Fund being hosted by the local community foundation. Whilst Leeds City Council retains overall responsibility to maintain Leeds parks, we believe that developing a platform that allows park users to give to the green spaces that they use and enjoy will facilitate improvements that might not otherwise occur, and contribute to raising the quality of green space provision across the city.

Leeds Parks Fund

Rather than setting up a new charity, the Leeds Parks Fund is hosted by the Leeds Community Foundation. This model is beneficial because of the experience that the community foundation has in administering funds and grants in the city. There is an extensive network of community foundations across the country that can be used to share and the project will allow us to investigate whether the other community foundations would be interested in replicating this model in their area.

Having successfully launched a vehicle to drive the Fund, and put in place the infrastructure to manage it, we are now using the Rethinking Parks programme to explore the benefits that investing in research, fundraising and marketing expertise and time can bring to generating an income for parks and greenspaces.

We hope the Leeds Park Fund will act as an empowerment tool for the community. In its design our partnership with the Leeds Parks and Green Spaces Forum will allow an existing pool of Friends groups, parks managers and volunteers to get involved with the Fund and help shape it. The Fund itself will empower communities to contribute to parks by donating or to make a positive change to their green space by applying for a grant to fund projects.

What will the project achieve and how will other parks learn from your work?

Our project aims to develop a local partnership for parks comprising local community, public, private and third sector organisations. Through the project we will raise the profile of parks and public green spaces, and spread awareness of their value. And through the Rethinking Parks project we hope to be able to raise enough funds to make a measurable difference to parks, and their users, on the ground.


How do we aim to do it? By gaining an understanding of what individuals and businesses think about the concept of charitable giving to public green space through expert led research. And by developing and implementing fundraising and marketing plans based on the results of the research. Funds raised will be distributed through a grant making process to communities so they can improve their parks and green spaces.

The project will allow us to find out if our model of having a fund hosted by a community foundation is something that could be replicated in other locations across the UK. Leeds covers a larger area than Bournemouth and so presents an opportunity to test the foundation model on a larger scale and will allow us to draw conclusions about whether it’s possible to raise enough funds through charitable donations to make a difference to public parks in a core city. Finally, if successful we will provide guidelines on how to set up a charitable scheme for parks using this model.


Tiffany Holmgren

Tiffany Holmgren

Tiffany Holmgren

Programme Manager, Data Analytics Practice

Tiffany is a Programme Manager in the Data Analytics Practice.

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Alicia Alli

Alicia Alli

Alicia Alli

Intern, Government Innovation

Alicia was the intern in the Government Innovation team.

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Chris Norris

Chris Norris

Chris Norris

Senior Programme Manager, Central Programmes

Chris is a senior programme manager working in Nesta’s central programmes office, supports our mission teams to develop partnerships and deliver innovation projects.

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Amy Solder

Amy Solder

Amy Solder

Deputy Chief Central Programmes Officer

Amy was the deputy chief programmes officer at Nesta, supporting the work of its three missions.

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